A handful of California bills dealing with insurance and provider access passed key legislative committees Thursday.
Health consumer advocates say the bills address concerns about “narrow provider networks” that have received attention under the Affordable Care Act.
One of the measures is called the “Patients’ Bill of Rights” by its backers.
It would protect patients from paying more for out-of-network care if a contracted doctor is not available when treatment is needed.
“[The bill] would require these insurance companies to provide the level of care that is
actually promised that patients expect to be getting," says Don Nielsen is Government Relations Director with the California Nurses Association, which sponsored the bill.
"If they don’t provide it in a timely manner, then patients can go outside that
network and obtain the medical care they need at no extra costs, ” says Nielsen.
But Nicole Evans of the California Association of Health Plans says there are already laws in place that protect consumers.
“Health plans are required by law to maintain adequate networks and ensure timely access to doctors appointments or else they face regulatory action by the state of California.”
Insurers don’t like other measures that are moving closer to passage. One would tighten government monitoring of patient access to doctors. Another would require health plans to track consumers’ out-of-pocket expenses and reimburse patients who overpay.